Coping with a Basse de Cromorne of Louis-Nicolas Clérambault

About two weeks ago I wrote about the Duo of Clérambault, which I slowly but steadily try to master. Today I’ll discuss the Basse de Cromorne fo the Suite du deuxième ton.

I found some information in the book »Zur Interpretation der französischen Orgelmusik«. According to the table of page 27, I’ve chosen the following registration:

  • Grand Orgue: Jeu Doux (Bourdon 8′, Préstant 4′).
  • Positif: Bourdon 8′, Préstant 4′, Chromhorne.

On page 26, there are some cites on how to play such a piece. Some remarks:

  • A vivid playing is required for the bass solo, including clear articulation.
  • According to the typical rules of notes inégales, the eight notes should be played as such (»notes inégales applies to all notes moving stepwise which have a duration of one quarter the denominator of the meter, for instance, eighth notes in a meter of 2/2.«).
  • The fantastic effect of notes inégales quickly gets detroyed in case a piece is played to fast. And a vivid playing does not necessarily mean the tempo must be around 120 beats per minute. In Jon Laukvik’s book Orgelschule zur historischen Aufführungspraxis, Teil 1 – Barock und Klassik there’s another hint that the tempo in baroque times may well have been less of what we chose nowadays. I have thus chosen a tempo of about 60 BPM, which supports the next point as well.
  • Some contemporary organ players write that they tried to play the bass line like it was a Bassoon or a Viol. While playing, I try to imagine I was playing the latter one. As a consequence, I’ve added a couple of trills to my left but also the right hand playing.
  • A Non-Legato articulation lets the piece sound even more like a Viol or Bassoon.

I’m really content with the outcome of applying the abovementioned points. My interpretation sounds rather different than many other recordings I have listened to. The pieces of french organ masses are quite short. But nevertheless it is very rewarding to learn about the rules of that time so that one not only plays notes, but actually makes the music live.